Bright and Pink:
Permanent is Okay


By Jennifer and Emma Upah

dollEmma Lyn and her doll

Last fall my beautiful, bouncing nine-year-old princess, Emma Lyn, was thumbing through the American Girl Doll catalog and noticed they were selling bright pink hearing aids for dolls.  Emma shrieked with excitement and stated that she wanted one for her look-alike American Girl doll.

That Christmas, my sister Angie gave Emma a gift card from the American Girl Doll store and told her she could use it to buy hearing aids for her doll. Emma was bursting with excitement.

I, on the other hand, was unsure. At that moment, raw emotions from my childhood flooded me. Memories of wearing hearing aids as a young child were not fond memories.  I was deaf. My deafness was permanent. I had to wear my hearing aids all the time, with the exception of taking them out at night. They were big, ugly, and brown. I definitely did not “shriek” with excitement when I had two “installed” in my ears. My reaction? I threw them in front of an operable lawn mower, flushed them down the toilets and hid them behind bushes so our dog, Suzie, would sniff them out and chew them up. I found ways to get rid of my hearing aids and my parents found ways to get me new ones… one after another.

Despite my daughter’s excited shriek, I was apprehensive about Emma’s doll having hearing aids installed permanently. I was worried about how her friends would react. I wondered why my daughter would want her doll to have hearing aids when Emma herself is not deaf. I even envisioned Emma getting tired of the aids and flushing them down the toilet! My thoughts were going in circles. Eventually I sat Emma down and had a little talk with her about the hearing aids.

“Honey, you do realize that once you get them installed, they are permanent, right?” I asked. (At that time I was not aware that you could take the doll’s hearing aids out at night time or any time, like real-life hearing aids.) I continued: “They are bright and pink. They are pretty, but, they are bright and pink.  Are you really sure you want them on permanently?”

My sweet little beautiful princess looked me in the eyes and declared, “Mom, your deafness is permanent and it’s okay.  My doll is deaf and it’s okay.”

At that moment I understood it really was okay.  God sends messages through our children to teach us a lesson or two.  What Emma Lyn said speaks a thousand words.  It really is okay to be deaf. It really is okay. At that moment, I made peace with my childhood memories.  We now have a deaf mom, a deaf baby doll, and very wise little girl in our household.

Editor’s note: Jennifer Upah is the director of Deaf Iowans Against Abuse (DIAA) and a member of Iowa Hands & Voices. See the American Girl doll hearing aids:

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